Is It Donald Sterling's Right To Fight For His Team?
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now, it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are writer Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland, Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of themuslimguy.com is with us from Chicago. Christopher Ave, political and national editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch joins us from Missouri. In our Washington, D.C. studios, contributing editor for The Root, Corey Dade. Take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, get a beverage. How you doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: I'm ready, Jimi...
IZRAEL: I mean, somebody...
IFTIKHAR: ...Hit me.
IZRAEL: ...Look, Michel, somebody has to take care of you, right?
MARTIN: That's right, thank you.
IZRAEL: That person at this moment has to be me. Fellas...
IFTIKHAR: What up?
IZRAEL: ...Welcome, welcome, welcome to the shop. How we doing?
CHRISTOPHER AVE: Awesome.
IFTIKHAR: Don't kick me in the elevator.
MARTIN: Having beverages.
COREY DADE: Let's get it popping.
IZRAEL: All right, well - all right, all right, all right. Let's get it started. You know, Bey and Jay have broken their silence, kind of. The family released a statement of sorts yesterday about that hotel security video that went viral this week where Bey's sister...
DADE: Beyonce's sister - like she's my friend.
IZRAEL: ...Where Beyonce's sister, Solange is seen flipping out on Jay Z in an elevator. She kicked and slapped him - slapped at the brother-in-law. She got a few good shots in until a security guard pulled her away. What did they say, Michel?
MARTIN: Her - you mean Solange? Or do you mean or do you mean?
MARTIN: Yeah, I think - there's another sister-in-law that I don't know about.
IFTIKHAR: And B.
MARTIN: And B.
IZRAEL: Yeah, Solange. That sounds like a hair care product. Anyway, go ahead.
MARTIN: Solange and - anyway, the statement said that they both accept their responsibly for their individual roles in the dustup and that they apologized to each other. And the statement says that at the end of the day, families have problems, we're no different. We love each other and above all we are family. We've put this behind us and we hope everybody else will do the same, unquote.
IZRAEL: OK, thank you for that. Michel, you know, my heart really goes out to Jay Z because in-law fights are like the kobayashi maru of marriage. You know, you lose coming and going #StarTrekreference.
IZRAEL: But having said that, Beyonce's in violation of the game. She should've intervened. You do not let your people get into it with your people. And that's - I don't care. I mean, that's just ridiculous. I'm not buying the all-forgiven stuff, you know - but that's just me. I've been called a cynic before. I've been called many names - some of them by in-laws. Corey Dade, what do you think? What do you think? Whoopi Goldberg says Jay Z would not have been out of bounds to hit Solange back. What do you make of that?
DADE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's - you know what that is? That's like that old-school black woman perspective that if a woman is bold enough to hit a man, she needs to be ready for the repercussions. I'm not saying I agree with it, but I understand it. It's something I've heard, you know, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other people say from way back in the day.
And I do think as a legal matter, if a man is being attacked - seriously attacked by woman, he is well within his legal rights to use physical force to repel a woman. That's clear. I think in this case, you know, he wasn't exactly in mortal threat and his security guard was there. I think he handled it exactly how he should have.
DADE: I think that's - now whether or not B should have stepped in or not? Yeah, I mean, you know, you need to get between your man and your sister.
IZRAEL: Absolutely, absolutely. You can't let your people get into it with your people.
DADE: But they had a security guard there though. You know what I'm saying?
MARTIN: Yeah, I mean, do most of us walk around with a security guard? I mean, a big, beefy one at that? I mean, isn't that kind of his job to de-escalate situations, which I think...
IZRAEL: Look, if you're a security guard, it's not really your - no, that's not in your job description to get in family fights.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah it is.
MARTIN: Yes it is.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah it is...
IZRAEL: Is it really?
IFTIKHAR: Yeah because they're around the clock. They handle every aspect of their goings and comings.
MARTIN: Their job is to de-escalate...
IZRAEL: I wish I'd have known that.
MARTIN: ...And to ensure the security of their clients. And so I just - I mean, anyway, I understand that the hotel - that they've identified the person who leaked or they believe that they've identified the person who leaked it. And one of the things I find...
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, he's been fired. He's been fired and B is actually...
MARTIN: But I'm more interested in the price tag. I mean...
MARTIN: But, I mean, $250,000. That tells you something about the world that we're living in, right?
IZRAEL: It tells you do not get in fights in elevators unless you want your stuff on full blast on TMZ. Christopher Ave, as it happens, you're an ethics and morals guy. Be honest, would you have sold the video?
IZRAEL: Long pause.
AVE: Is that what you're telling me?
IZRAEL: Yeah, 250 Gs.
AVE: Oh man, you know, I would love to sit here and look at you through the radio and say, no way...
AVE: But - and it's wrong, it's wrong to sell it, but $250,000? I'm making what, thirty a year if I'm lucky. That'd be a tough one. Let me just say this though - and look, this is - I'm at risk of being thrown out the Barbershop but I really don't care much about Beyonce and Jay Z and Solange.
IZRAEL: Clutch the pearls.
AVE: Solange - I had never heard of Solange. I thought - it sounds like it would be a nice luxury car to drive, a Solange - but I didn't know who she was.
IZRAEL: Sounds like a hair care product.
AVE: Exactly. But let me just say this though, here's one thing I can take away from this is it makes me feel good. I don't know about you guys, my family is a little screwed up. It is a little jacked, especially extended family. And you know what? If - they have the income every year of the GDP of Switzerland and they still get into it sometimes and they still have some problems, it makes me feel good. I feel good. I like it.
IZRAEL: Christopher, where you going to be - your holiday meal at, bro? I do not know, but you should report back. Arsalan - thank you for your candor. Arsalan, was it even legal to sell it?
IFTIKHAR: I don't know. I mean, obviously the surveillance video was the property of the company that was - you know, that owned the elevator in which it took place. But, you know, again I have to echo Christopher's sentiment here. You know, we live in a TMZ culture now.
And, you know, if an elevator surveillance security guard is making, you know, $8.32 an hour and TMZ or whoever offers them, you know, a quarter of a million dollars, you know, I'm not going to hate on him or her for selling on the tape. I mean, this is something that has become part and parcel of our culture now. We see this happening with paparazzi and video cameras and smart phones all day long so you can't necessarily hate on that.
MARTIN: Can I just - can I throw a theory out here?
MARTIN: Before we move on, I have a theory that actually this has to do with the lack of upward mobility in this country now. This kind of garbage media is something that we associated with other countries where people had a fixed role in life. You were born and if your dad was a coal miner, you're going to be a coal miner. And if you're in the upper class, you're going to stay in the upper class - pretty much no matter what you did. And so we associate this kind garbage media - it's a takedown. At the end of the day, it's a takedown. And I think I associate this with people saying, well, you know what? I'm never going to be rich, I'm never going to be famous and so...
DADE: It incentivizes...
MARTIN: ...It incentivizes this kind of behavior, not even - the money is a powerful incentive. Let's be clear that people don't get that kind of stuff for free, but I think it has something to do with people not feeling that they have a way up. I mean, I'm just throwing that out there.
DADE: I think even before that was the case though, you had National Enquirer and other places that were paying for this kind of stuff even when the economy was good.
MARTIN: Yeah, but those were fringe now.
MARTIN: They were fringe. I mean, you can count - I can - count in your career how many times you would be talking about a National Enquirer story? Occasionally, it did happen when it was a person of real significance like a political leader and eventually some story turned out to be true, right? Like a child born out of wedlock or something of that sort with a person who claimed to have a very different sort of lifestyle, but that was fringe, now it's become mainstream. So all I'm saying...
AVE: Well, but not because of the economy, but because of the celebrity culture.
MARTIN: But why is there a celebrity culture? Why is there a celebrity culture? I think it's in part the technology 'cause it's easy.
MARTIN: But I think it's in part because people feel like they're - they've got their noses pressed against the glass.
MARTIN: It's just a theory. It's just a theory. That's all I'm saying.
IZRAEL: All right, well...
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're having our weekly visit with the Barbershop with Jimi Izrael, Corey Dade, Arsalan Iftikhar and Christopher Ave. Back to you.
IZRAEL: Thank you, Michel. I guess we'll never be royals. It's not in our blood. So - #Lorde - so moving on to more drama - more money, more drama. Donald Sterling is the car wreck you cannot turn away from. Wow, just like your in-laws. And now he's fighting back.
He reportedly says he won't pay the $2.5 million fine from the league and won't give up the team either. Dude, I admire that. This is a change in tune from what he told CNN's Anderson Cooper earlier this week. Drop that clip, please.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AC360")
DONALD STERLING: I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness. Am I entitled to one mistake in my - after 35 years? I mean, I love my league. I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It's a terrible mistake and I'll never do it again.
AVE: I promise, I promise.
IZRAEL: Michel, I mean, wow, right?
MARTIN: Well, I don't know. Christopher, where are you on this?
AVE: You know what? The NBA is a private club and they have the right to set a standard. There's an ethical clause in there. They have every right to take him out. Of course he's going to sue. I think he was always going to sue. I'm not surprised by this at all. I say get the man out. And please, please stop putting microphones in front of his face. I don't want to hear what he says anymore.
AVE: I really don't.
MARTIN: Arsalan, you don't?
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean, I can't wait for the day that I don't have to hear the words Donald Sterling anymore. You know, I think the NBA owners, you know, will get their three-fourths majority vote. I'd be surprised if they do not get a unanimous vote to kick Donald Sterling out of the league.
I'm going with Christopher again. I think that, you know, it was a foregone conclusion that he's going to use his millions and billions to sue and, you know, take this to court. And that is fine and - you know, let him go through his legal process. But, you know, when he says that this was one mistake, this was not one mistake. I mean, he has been a racist slumlord in Los Angeles for years. You know, I think that is - seems to be forgotten in this whole debacle as well.
MARTIN: I don't know that it's been forgotten. Doesn't the question still stand about whether comments that were made privately and meant to be private can be the occasion for this kind of action? Yes, it's true from a brand damage - you know, the damage to the brand standpoint, yes, but these were not public utterances. And those legal issues, while serious, were settled. And, you know, that's the question I think that - to me that's the - and so Arsalan, I'm asking you as the lawyer...
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, sure.
MARTIN: ...Doesn't he have a case?
IFTIKHAR: He does, but again - you know, just like we talked about with Beyonce and Jay Z, the elevator footage was private footage also. I mean, we live in a TMZ voyeuristic culture now where we have to just assume that anything that we say or do can be and probably will be recorded if we're a public figure of any sort.
DADE: You know, can I just...
MARTIN: Go ahead, Corey Dade.
DADE: ...Jump in whole privacy thing? Yes, I think there is certainly cause to raise the notion that this woman illegally taped him because in California, you need consent from the other person...
IFTIKHAR: From both.
DADE: ...To agree to be recorded. But this is not about privacy as it relates to his ownership in the NBA. The Commissioner asked Sterling, is that your voice on the tape? He admitted it is, so privacy goes out the window for the purposes of the NBA. He's already admitted that that was him talking, so the NBA's now going to judge him and make their decision based on his having admitted to that verbal behavior. So let's just throw out the privacy thing as it relates to his NBA ownership.
MARTIN: Jimi, what do you think?
IZRAEL: I just marvel at the knee-jerk liberal response to wanting to shut down and berate and horsewhip this 150-year-old white man whose race politics - surprise - are not aligned with the modern mores. Listen, you get - in America you get to sort out your ideas about race, class and gender in real time. I mean, he's an old cat, he's got his old - he's got old ideas. You know, he said all this stuff off mic. He - you know, I want him to fight. He absolutely should fight. It is his right to fight. You get to - when you're having a spat with your jump-off, you get to say just about whatever you want to say without having to worry about it being on CNN. And he was wrong, I'm sorry. He was wrong.
DADE: Did he say jump-off?
AVE: You said jump-off.
MARTIN: I think we're just going to pretend we didn't hear that and we're going to kind of move...
AVE: I will say though - what to me is interesting here - this is on a collision course with the players. LeBron James has already laid down the gauntlet. He's going to lead a boycott by the end - by the beginning of the season. So watch - mark your calendars, October 28th, if he is still the owner, the players have a real big decision to make. And I think these players are willing to take the financial hit to walk out.
MARTIN: I think they are too.
IZRAEL: Yeah, I want to see that.
MARTIN: Well, let me just...
DADE: I do too.
MARTIN: ...Speaking about changing mores, Corey, I want to write about - something you wrote about earlier this week which is that the - Michael Sam, remember that he was drafted in the seventh round, went to the St. Louis Rams and that he kissed his boyfriend when he learned that he was becoming a St. Louis Ram. It was kind of a - it was a very emotional moment, and it was a lot of stuff about this. And I think you and Arsalan both had something to say about this.
And I think - you know, Corey, so first of all what do you think that means? It was a lot of buzz, I mean, a lot - some people were very upset about this and the NFL was not pleased that they publicly voiced their discomfort if they were active players. What do you have to say about it?
DADE: Yeah, I mean, it was the kiss heard round the world, right? It's - you know, a lot of people were repulsed by seeing it. You know, what's funny is a lot of people who actually support Michael Sam's right to play in the NFL, who support even sort of LGBT rights were repulsed by it. It's like, OK, OK, you know, you guys deserve your rights, and we're going to be tolerant of it. But I don't want to see it. I don't want to see it. I don't want to see it. It's kind of like they - it's kind of like how white people used to talk about black people. You can have your rights, you can have your - but you don't have to live next to me, we don't have to talk, and we don't want to see raising your kids. We don't want to interact with you.
MARTIN: You remember what - you know what this reminded me of on "Star Trek" - speaking of "Star Trek," remember when Lieutenant Uhura and William Shatner were in this scenario where they were forced to kiss and it was this huge, bug deal.
IZRAEL: Yup, I remember that.
DADE: Yes, sir.
AVE: First interracial kiss on TV, yes.
MARTIN: But the storyline was that they had to, they were tied up and they were forced to by aliens. It was something like that. That's how controversial that was.
DADE: It's like a back door into social advancing.
MARTIN: Christopher had something to say about this. Christopher?
AVE: Well, the kiss is the kiss and, of course, some people are repulsed by it, there's no doubt about that. But, I mean, so what? I mean, you don't have a right to never be repulsed by anything. I mean, this is our world today. And - here, you know, Sam is, of course, huge because I'm sitting here in St. Louis and the team drafted him. I'm a Mizzou grad, a proud Mizzou grad fanatic, right? So, you know, I'm a huge fan.
A lot of the talk here is why did he fall to the seventh round? Co-defensive player of the year in college football's best conference, the SEC, why did he fall to the seventh round? Well, you know, it's cloudy. He didn't have very good workouts, etc., etc. But one of the questions is, you know, A - was there some kind of discrimination going on? I don't know the answer to that. But B - it's pretty clear. Some teams were shy of the media circus. Some teams didn't want to deal with, quote-unquote, the distraction. I think that that's the most likely explanation as to why he went in the seventh round. And you know what? He had - the Rams introduced him, he had a very good press conference and then right after that the Rams found out, oh by the way, the Oprah Network is doing a six-part series on Michael Sam's coming out in the NFL etc.
MARTIN: They're not happy.
AVE: And, you know, from what our reporters are saying, the Rams aren't so happy about that.
MARTIN: Yeah, I hear you. Arsalan, you have a final thought on that?
IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I think it's all about content versus context of our unconscious bias. If Michael Sam had kissed his father, his son or his brother on the lips, I don't think anybody would of said boo. But because people knew the fact that it was his boyfriend, they were triggered by it.
Also, I would like to say if this was a female athlete who had gotten drafted and kissed her girlfriend, would we have seen this same sort of backlash? I think a lot of people who were opposed to two men kissing would have been like, I ain't got no problem seeing two women kissing. So I think it has a lot to do with content and context.
MARTIN: Interesting. Jimi, do you have a final, quick thought on that?
IZRAEL: Good kiss. Let's play football.
MARTIN: OK, all right. All right, Arsalan Iftikhar's founder of themuslimguy.com and an adjunct professor of religious studies at DePaul University. Christopher Ave is the political and national editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Corey Dade is a contributing editor for The Root. He runs their political blog, The Take. Jimi Izrael is a writer. You can find his blog at his jimiizrael.com. Thank you all so much.
IFTIKHAR: Yes sir.
MARTIN: And before we go, I'd like to congratulate my colleague Celeste Headlee. She's been the guest host on this program a number of times over the past few years. Now she's off to Atlanta where she's going to host her own local news and talk show and we just want to wish Celeste the best.
And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow. Let's talk more on Monday.
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